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Interstate 69 (Corridors 18 and 20)

Corridors 18 and 20 combine to form the Interstate 69 Corridor from Texas to Michigan. Corridor 18 refers to the entire Interstate 69 corridor from Laredo to Port Huron, including branches to Brownsville via U.S. 77 and 281, Interstate 530 extenstion from Pine Bluff to Monticello, Interstate 94 from Chicago to Port Huron, and the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. Corridor 20 is almost entirely absorbed by Corridor 18, as it is the Interstate 69 corridor from Laredo to Texarkana. The only part of Corridor 20 that may be separate from Corridor 18 would be in and around Texarkana, which might be overtaken by Corridor 1/Interstate 49.

Current Status of Interstate 69

Interstate 69 currently exists as a freeway from the northeastern corner of Indianapolis, Indiana, to the Canadian border at Port Huron, Michigan. When Interstate 69 was first conceived in the 1950s, it was planned to run within Indiana from Indianapolis to the Interstate 80/90 Indiana Toll Road interchange. Over the intervening years, it was extended north to Charlotte and Lansing via U.S. 27, then northeast via old M-21 to Flint and Port Huron. The freeway was extended to Port Huron by the mid-1980s.

Today, Interstate 69 is planned for another extension: southwest.

For the latest information on Interstate 69, including recent news articles and releases, we highly recommend Interstate 69 Information by Chris Lawrence. It is updated much more frequently than AARoads and provides more up-to-date information on the new corridor.

Connecting Corridors 18 and 20

The plans for the Interstate 69 extension are based on two high priority corridors listed in the ISTEA/NHS legislation: Corridor 18, from Houston, Texas, northeast via Memphis, Tennessee, to Indianapolis, Indiana, and Corridor 20, from Laredo, Texas, northeast to Texarkana via Houston. Through political maneuvering, these corridors are now considered as one, with the TEA-21 definition of Corridor 18 covering all of Corridor 20.

At its southwestern terminus, Interstate 69 will have three branches: one that begins in Laredo via U.S. 59, another that begins in McAllen along U.S. 281, and a third branch that begins in Brownsville via U.S. 77. With the passage of TEA-21, all three branches are written into the law. The legislation for Corridor 18 calls for Texas Route FM-511 in the Port of Brownsville and the Corpus Christi Northside Highway and Rail Corridor to be included in the Interstate 69 corridor, while the legislation for Corridor 20 calls for U.S. 59 from Texarkana southeast to Laredo to be included.

According to a Roads & Bridges Interstate 2000 article, the Brownsville branch of Interstate 69 may be defined as "Interstate 41." Interstate 41 would be part of the greater Interstate 69 (NAFTA Superhighway) Corridor. As proposed by the authors of the Roads and Bridges article, Interstate 41 would follow U.S. 59 and U.S. 77 from Houston southwest to Brownsville via Corpus Christi. Interstate 69, as currently proposed, would likely terminate in Laredo rather than Brownsville, but I doubt the Interstate 41 moniker will be used.

In Fiscal Year 2002, the following allocations were made toward the Interstate 69 Project:

  • I-69 Connector from I-530 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas - $4,000,000
  • I-69 construction Odom Road to I-55, Mississippi - $9,000,000
  • I-69 Corridor, Louisiana - $10,000,000
  • I-69 Corridors 18 and 20, Texas - $1,500,000
  • I-69 Evansville to Indianapolis, Indiana - $2,586,000
  • I-69 on SIU 11 along US 61, Mississippi - $500,000
  • Pennyrile Parkway, Kentucky - $1,000,000 (not clear if this will be on main Interstate 69 corridor or not)

Interstate 69 was among the first high priority corridors. The following sections detail the proposed routing of Interstate 69, in a state-by-state analysis.

Texas

As mentioned above, Interstate 69 will have three branches so it can serve the border areas near Laredo and near Brownsville. Somewhere near Corpus Christi, the three branches of Interstate 69 will meet. From there to Houston, Interstate 69 will directly overlay U.S. 59. For more, go to Erik Slotboom's Interstate 69 page.

A report from Marty Blaise in Texas on the main Interstate 69 corridor:

As for IH69, a lot of U.S. 59 is being upgraded to Interstate standards, at least part of it here in Houston, Texas is. Sometimes people mistakenly call U.S. 59 here Interstate 59. While U.S. 59 may be Interstate standard, Interstate 59 is in Mississippi and Louisiana! If U.S. 59 becomes IH 69, we won't have that problem here. There's been lots of talk about the coming of Interstate 69 in the Houston area. I haven't heard anything about an "IH41," though.

Of course, folks in Austin, San Antonio, etc. say that Interstate 35 already is the NAFTA highway! If U.S. 59 becomes IH69 in Houston, then it will be a very nice interstate! U.S. 59 through Houston is being completely renovated -- it is much much wider than the original two lanes per side, with better on and off ramps and nice road signs. The southwest freeway is complete and the northeast sections are under construction. It looks like all it will take to make it an Interstate is to add the IH69 signs (I'm sure there's a few other details that would take place but I am not sure what they are).

Parts of U.S. 59 throughout Texas are freeway, but many are divided highway and some are two-lane road. Part of U.S. 59 is what I call a Texas oddity - you have the original two-lane highway, plus a two-lane what looks like main lanes of the freeway section (but WITHOUT overpasses) so what it looks like is that part of the freeway was built and the old highway was used for existing divided highway, but future one-way service road. Then you have barricades all over the place, roads crossing pieces of what looks like proposed main lanes and lots of confusion. And what will probably happen is that the "main lanes" will be redone when the "new main lanes" are built -- if ever. A lot of Texas roads are strange like that. Some day they actually even put in the overpasses. There are a lot of places in Texas (like Baytown) where the dirt for planned overpasses was put in 30 or more years ago. There are still only service roads, no main lanes, and piles of dirt waiting for the overpasses.

Interstate 69 Funding

According to the Texas DOT web site, $19.2 million was made available for environmental studies related to the planning and construction of Interstate 69 in January 2000. The study will take seven years to complete. "The state received federal highway funds for the Interstate 69 environmental study from the National Corridor Planning and Development Program (NCPD). A portion of those funds came from a $15 million earmark in the NCPD program, which was secured for Corridor 18 by Congressman Tom DeLay." The environmental study will allow the Texas Department of Transportation to initiate preliminary studies and gather data to identify factors such as potential environmental issues, basic design parameters, possible alternate routes and subsequently the actual route locations. The study will also estimate the potential cost acquiring rights-of-way, utility adjustments, environmental mitigation and construction.

The extension of Interstate 69 from Indianapolis to Laredo, to McAllen and to Harlingen is about 1,660 miles, of which Texas has approximately 955 miles. Although the area in and around Houston is already to Interstate standards, Texas DOT's web page states that it will take a "national emphasis and dedication of funds at the national level in the next federal transportation bill in 2004" to be able to complete the national-level project in 25 to 30 years. If Texas DOT stays ahead of the rest of the state in the planning of the route, the route in Angelina and Nacogdoches Counties might be completely under construction in 15 years.

Interstate 69's Three-Way Split

Interstate 69 has several southern termini planned, all of which are likely to be constructed:

  • Laredo via U.S. 59 (Interstate 69)
  • Rio Grande Valley via U.S. 281 (Interstate 69 Central)
  • Rio Grande Valley/Brownsville via U.S. 77 (Interstate 69 East)

Note that the Laredo segment is not referred to as "Interstate 69 West." It seems like these three routes would merge someplace near Beeville or Victoria. If each segment is constructed as planned, it is possible that U.S. 59, 77, and 281 may be curtailed on their concurrent sections with the future Interstate 69 and its central and east segments.

For a map and much more details, see Texas Freeways: Interstate 69 (Erik Slotboom).

Interstate 69: Victoria to Houston

Plans call for the U.S. 59 freeway to be upgraded between Victoria and Houston to Interstate standards.

Currently, there are small trailblazer signs posted at 10-15 mile intervals along both sides of the U.S. 59 freeway from around El Campo, in Wharton County, all the way up to the Houston metropolitan area that have a blank Interstate shield with the legend "Future Interstate Corridor" to the right. Newer signs show an Interstate 69 shield (see Jeff Royston picture below). Future Interstate 69 will follow the U.S. 59 corridor between Victoria and Richmond, then turn north along Texas State Route 99 (the Grand Parkway) or through Houston via U.S. 59.

The Grand Parkway

The TEA-21 legislation indicates that an "Interstate 69 Bypass route" could be defined along Texas 99 ("The Grand Parkway"). According to Erik Slotboom, the western and northern segments of the Grand Parkway is a "finalist" alignment for the Interstate 69 routing in Houston. It remains to be seen how Interstate 69 will be routed through and around Houston. The 170-mile Grand Parkway will make an wide loop around Houston, via the cities of League, Coty, Rosenburg, Katy, and Tomball. The parkway will connect to the northern terminus of the Hardy Toll Road, northeast of Lake Houston, and it will end just east of Baytown.

Erik drove on the Grand Parkway in October 1999 from Harlem Road just south of FM 1093 to U.S. 59. The more rural areas of the highway from U.S. 90A to FM 1093 are four lanes undivided, with a 60 mile per hour speed limit. "There is a stop sign a Harlem Road, and there's a huge median at all intersections where there will probably eventually be overpasses. The bridge over U.S. 59 was also disappointing. Instead of building a new bridge to replace the old Crabb River Road bridge, they just repainted the two lane bridge to a three-lane (one northbound, two southbound). I'm sure the Grand Parkway around Cinco Ranch and Interstate10 is much more impressive, but I expected that the Grand Parkway would have more to show along its entire route."

Plans do not call for the Grand Parkway to pass through Baytown or over Galveston Bay to complete the loop. It appears the section between Sugar Land and Richmond up to Interstate 10 just east of Katy is complete has already been completed, but some at-grade intersections remain. As of August 1999, work is just starting on the far eastern section crossing Interstate 10 over in Beach City (between Baytown and the Trinity River crossing), and it's possible that the western section may be extended as far as the Northwest Freeway (U.S. 290) in the next five years -- by 2004.

More information is available at the official Grand Parkway web page.

Interstate 69: Houston to Texarkana

Interstate 69 will leave the Houston area by continuing along the U.S. 59 freeway. For more on the routing of Interstate 69 between Houston and Carthage, check out the Lufkin and Nacogdoches Counties Map of Interstate 69 Corridor. Near Carthage, Interstate 69 will jump from Texas into Louisiana along a route between U.S. 79 and U.S. 84. The NHS/ISTEA/TEA-21 Legislation indicates that the High Priority Corridor 18 will head north to Texarkana, but that will likely be served by a combination of a 3di and the Interstate 49 North-South Corridor. This should show that Interstate 69 will not follow Interstate 30 and Interstate 40 through Arkansas to connect to Memphis and points northeast. Instead, Interstate 69 will turn into Louisiana and head more easterly initially, then more northerly as it approaches Memphis.

At Carthage, Corridors 18 and 20 split. Corridor 20 is to continue north along U.S. 59 to Texarkana, but this function may be partially carried by an Interstate x69 and Interstate 49. At Texarkana, Corridor 20 ends. However, Corridor 18 continues northeast to Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois.

Louisiana

The legislation is unclear as to where exactly Interstate 69 would go while it is in Louisiana. Interstate 69 will enter northwestern Louisiana near Shreveport.

According to an article (dated 8/8/97) uncovered by H.B. Elkins, the Interstate 69 will cross into Louisiana from Texas between U.S. 79 and U.S. 84 near Carthage, Texas. Heading northeast, Interstate 69 will head toward Shreveport and Bossier City, then cross the Louisiana-Arkansas State Line near Haynesville, Louisiana.

It will be interesting to note that, once everything is said and done, Shreveport will wind up with three 2dis (Interstates 20, 49, and 69) instead of the one it had back in 1990 (Interstate 20).

Arkansas

Interstate 69 will enter Arkansas just south of El Dorado, perhaps along U.S. 63-167. Then Interstate 69 will cut northeast toward a new Mississippi River crossing east of McGehee. Interstate 69 will probably serve Arkansas towns such as Warren, Monticello, and Dumas, roughly paralleling U.S. 82 and U.S. 165. Interstate 69 may also follow U.S. 167, U.S. 63 (old Arkansas 15), and U.S. 278 (old Arkansas 4) between El Dorado and McGehee. The total project cost for the Arkansas portion of Interstate 69 is expected to be over $1 billion. As of January 2001, the state had received approximately $15 million for the project.

The three official segments of Interstate 69 to be studied for environmental impact review in Arkansas are:

  • Louisiana State Line (north of Shreveport) to El Dorado via U.S. 63-167 - Arkansas and Louisiana planning to begin environmental and location studies in the next year
  • El Dorado to McGehee via U.S. 63 (to Warren) and U.S. 278 - a consultant is being solicited for environmental and location studies
  • McGehee to Mississippi State Line via U.S. 65 and Arkansas 1 to Rosedale, Mississippi - environmental and location studies underway

According to Scott Dennis, the Arkansas Highway Department's web page has a new (as of March 1999) press release announcing the beginning of plans to extend Interstate 530 (the U.S. 65 freeway) from Pine Bluff to Monticello to meet Interstate 69. Adam Froehlig adds that he has a map from Michael Baker, Inc., that shows the proposed corridor for this future Interstate will parallel U.S. 425 a few miles to the west of this route. It is possible that this extension of Interstate 530 will continue further south to Monroe, Louisiana.

The "Dickey Split," which was proposed by a congressman in Arkansas in the late 1990s, would have routed a branch of Interstate 69 along the west side of the Mississippi River. Although the language for such a split was drafted, the Dickey Split was not adopted, in part due to strong opposition by Mississippi's Senator Trent Lott.

Interstate 530

Interstate 530 was commissioned August 2, 1999, over the existing U.S. 65 freeway on the same day that the Pine Bluff bypass was opened to traffic. Plans call for an extension of Interstate 530 south from Pine Bluff to Monticello, where it would meet the new Interstate 69 corridor. This freeway connection will likely follow U.S. 425, a relatively new U.S. highway commissioned in 1989 (according to Robert Droz's U.S. Highways Site). It is possible that the freeway could continue south of future Interstate 69 to meet Interstate 20, but no plans for that are currently underway. However, such an extension would likely follow U.S. 425.

Mississippi

The ISTEA/NHS/TEA-21 legislation is unclear as to where Interstate 69 would go while it is in Mississippi. According to the Interstate 69 map, Interstate 69 would enter Mississippi somewhere between Greenville and Helena, and then it will turn north into the Memphis metro area.

Great River Bridge

The Great River Bridge is the crossing Interstate 69 will take across the Mississippi River. Planned at Rosedale, Mississippi, as a compromise location between Mississippi and Arkansas, the bridge is being designed as a four-lane Interstate-grade bridge, contingent upon Interstate 69 being constructed to the bridge.

However, some politicians are concerned that the Great River Bridge may not be as feasible if the U.S. 82 Greenville Bridge is constructed. As of December 2000, $200 million has been committed to building a new bridge at Greenville, where U.S. 82 now crosses the river. But the Great River Bridge further north, near Rosedale, has only $17 million allocated to what will be a more expensive project, costing $600 million.

In the June 22, 1999, Delta Democrat Times from Greenville, Mississippi, "Mayor Paul Artman (Greenville) asked for community support to get federal and state approval and funding for a series of Interstate highways around Greenville. The list of projects includes building a new four-lane U.S. 82 bridge, a bypass running from the new bridge to Leland, Mississippi, an Interstate 69 crossing of the Mississippi River at Eutaw Landing, between Benoit and Scott, and a road connecting Interstate 69 and U.S. 82 ... Like the U.S. bridge, Interstate 69, a road connecting Port Huron, Indianapolis, Memphis, Houston, and Mexico, is a near certainty."

Interstate 69 will cross the Mighty Mississippi River at Rosedale, Mississippi. According to a report in the Meridian (Miss.) Star dated August 9, 1997, the Arkansas Interstate 69 Coalition's executive voted to endorse the proposed Mississippi River crossing at Rosedale as a compromise between Mississippi and Arkansas. Apparently, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (Mississippi) wanted more of Interstate 69 in his district. Fred Tyner has more:

The crossing location has been a point of argument between Mississippi and Arkansas. Arkansas officials would like to use a Helena crossing, while Mississippi officials support a Greenville crossing using the proposed new U.S. 82 bridge. There is a possible crossing site near Arkansas City, but language in the ISTEA/NHS/TEA-21 legislation ruled out a Memphis crossing.

So the compromise was Rosedale, whose location coincides with the proposed Great River Road railroad and highway bridge. This will give 134 miles of Interstate 69 in Arkansas and 112 miles in Mississippi. The Helena crossing would have given 193 miles of Interstate 69 to Arkansas and 55 miles to Mississippi. U.S. 278, which was designated along Corridor 11 (Mississippi State Route 6), would be recommissioned to cross the Mississippi River along with Interstate 69 at Rosedale.

Plans for this "Great River Road" crossing have been for a two-lane highway, but they could be changed for a four-lane interstate. Officials plan to buid the highway bridge first, then construct the railroad facility. The railroad that plans to use the multimodal bridge will be a shortline called "the Great River Railroad." This will connect Rosedale to the Columbus and Greenville Railroad. What is unclear to me whether this will be a genuine railroad link or an attempt to make the bridge appear "multi-modal." It would be the only railroad bridge for 200 miles if it is built.

The last few miles of the Arkansas River is proposed for the "Wild and Scenic River" designation. Both because of this, and because of the extensive swampland and meanderings of the Arkansas River, Interstate 69 cannot cross the Mississippi within view of the Arkansas River. (Oddly enough, the story, a news brief, focused on its effect on Interstate 69, not the "scenic" Arkansas River.)

The location of the Great River Bridge, which will carry I-69 across the Mississippi River, has now been determined. Adam Froehlig wrote in June 2000 that a Record of Decision has recently been made on what was called the "Southern Alternative" during the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) stages. The routing begins just north of McGehee and continues almost due east, crossing the river near Eutaw Landing, then continues to a half mile south of Benoit. Adam also commented that he recently met with Greenville's mayor, who pointed out that the routing now goes south of Benoit instead of just north as the original "Southern Alternative" was planned.

Adam Froehlig also notes that there is much consternation and discussion within Greenville about whether the best investment would be the planned Great River Bridge for Interstate 69 or a long-desired replacement U.S. 82 span. Many locals want the replacement U.S. 82 span, which is already fully designed, to be built first. The existing U.S. 82 bridge is old and already heavily used. A related issue is $9 million in discretionary funds which was originally allocated for the U.S. 82 bridge, but was spent by the U.S. Department of Transportation on other projects.

Greenville Spur/Potential Interstate 169

There is the potential for an Interstate spur from Interstate 69 south to Greenville. A corridor study has been completed, at the request of the City of Greenville and Washington County, by ABMB Engineers Inc. (who themselves are associated with HNTB, a large, prestigious engineering consulting firm). This spur (called by some in Greenville as Interstate 169) as proposed would begin at Interstate 69 about halfway between Benoit and the river, then run south (using part of existing Mississippi 1) then southeast, passing between Greenville and the Mid-Delta Regional Airport, then turn back south and end at the future U.S. 82 Greenville Bypass. For more, see Adam Froehlig's Interstate 169 page.

Interstate 69, Rosedale to Memphis

After crossing the river, Interstate 69 will turn north along U.S. 61 toward Memphis. U.S. 61 has developed traffic problems due to the casino developments near Tunica. Interstate 69 in Mississippi will connect to Corridor 11 (ARC Corridor V) near Clarksdale.

Adam Froehlig reported that construction projects started along the section of Mississippi 304 west of Interstate 55. In June 2000, he confirmed "that part of the new MS 304 freeway in DeSoto County is now under construction. This is significant because the section under construction (about three miles west of I-55) will become part of I-69. That part of I-69's routing is a given. For the curious (or insistent), the part under construction is from MS 301 east to Odom Road, which is a couple miles west of I-55."

Interstate 69 will enter Tennessee on one of two routes:

  1. Through midtown Memphis utilizing sections of Interstates 40, 240 and 55. This is the path recommended by the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization and the City of Memphis.
  2. Around the east side of Tennessee 385 between Millington and Collierville and connect with the new Mississippi 304 in DeSoto County.

Plans also call for improvements to Interstate 55 between Mississippi State Route 304 and the State Line, but these are not yet underway.

Mississippi 304/Tennessee 385

Interstate 69 will either enter the city of Memphis or bypass it. However, a bypass of Memphis will be provided via the future Mississippi State Route 304 freeway between U.S. 61 and Interstate 55. Part of this freeway section is now under construction. The 304 freeway is planned to run from U.S. 61 near the Tunica/DeSoto County line east to Interstate 55 between Hernando and Nesbitt, continue east to U.S. 78 near the DeSoto/Marshall County line, then turn north and tie into Tennessee State Route 385 (Nonconnah Parkway) near Collierville.

The U.S. 61 to Interstate 55 segment of Mississippi State Route 304 is already programmed and should begin construction in a couple years. Completion of Mississippi State Route 304 and Tennessee State Route 385, would form an outer "beltway" around Memphis. This beltway will be called Interstate 269 per the Memphis regional planning agency. (According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal on April 7, 2002, the outer beltway was to be designated as Interstate 669 while the through-city route would be Interstate 69, but the designation has since changed to Interstate 269.)

In the Memphis area, the limited access Tennessee State Primary Route 385 is known as the Nonconnah Parkway. This road is planned as part of a beltway that will stretch from Interstate 240 near Germantown north to Interstate 40, then east along State Secondary Route 206 to link with U.S. 51 near Cuba and a naval air station. It would connect to future Interstate 69 near the U.S. 51 interchange.

Tennessee Highways expert Billy Riddle provides some more detail:

It's been a couple of years since I drove this road, and at the time, its exit off Interstate 240 was marked simply as "LOCAL TRAFFIC" because it ended less than a mile from Interstate 240 at an interchange with Hickory Hill Rd. I believe that it now completely bypasses Germantown and extends as far as the outskirts of Collierville. I haven't been there recently, so I am not sure of the current status.

The Collierville-Arlington Expressway, in a recent press release by TDOT, was referred to as another part of Nonconnah Parkway. Both roads will carry the same Tennessee SPR 385 designation. The road will go further east than U.S. 70-79 to at least Interstate 40. The Interstate 40/SPR 385 interchange has been under construction for the past two years and has had Interstate 40 down to one lane in each direction for much of the project!

An article from the Memphis Commercial Appeal, indicates that the Nonconnah-loop plans are disjointed and that the Collierville-Arlington and U.S. 72 tie-ins are competing. At issue is how Nonconnah should connect with the proposed Collierville-Arlington Expressway. Also in dispute are plans for widening U.S. 72 south of Collierville.

The article states that the Tennessee Department of Transportation wants "to merge the southern tip of Collierville-Arlington into Nonconnah on the southeastern edge of the town of Collierville. The north end of Collierville-Arlington Parkway would connect with the Paul Barrett Parkway, forming a ring of new highways partially encircling Memphis. Officials are also working to widen U.S. 72 south of Collierville to five lanes with a grass median, similar to U.S. 78 from Shelby Drive south to the Mississippi state line."

However, the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization, a regional planning outfit that sets priorities for major road projects in Shelby, western Fayette and northern DeSoto counties, is pushing a more costly and comprehensive approach. Some of the key points are:

  • Instead of aligning Collierville-Arlington Expressway/Parkway to merge into Nonconnah, extend Collierville-Arlington south to spill into the proposed extension of Miss. 304. The two parkways would intersect under MPO's tentative plan, requiring a free-flow interchange for motorists to switch from one parkway to the other without stopping.
  • Extend the Nonconnah Parkway east into the Piperton community in Fayette County.
  • Build a four-lane U.S. 72 bypass in addition to widening the existing highway.

The article goes on to say that the work is many years away, with much of the right-of-way acquisition and environmental mitigations still underway.

Officials on both sides (TDOT and MPO) say they hope to resolve their differences early this year. Calling the state's proposal more piecemeal, MPO transportation planning coordinator Clark W. Odor said the tentative plan being pushed by local officials takes a comprehensive view of the ideal major road network south of Collierville.

"The way the state has it, if you're in a truck and you're coming up Highway 72 and you . . . want to get on Nonconnah to bypass Collierville and bypass Germantown to get to Interstate 240 South, you've got to stop at a stop light and make a left-hand turn to get on the freeway. And we think that's ridiculous," Odor said.

In addition, Odor and other local officials believe the state's proposal for widening U.S. 72 south of Collierville could be as shortsighted as the decision some three decades ago to widen U.S. 78 (Lamar) in the Shelby Drive-Holmes area but not make it a freeway.

Largely rural at the time, the area has become a major industrial center whose increasingly congested main artery lacks freeway-standard median and curb-cut controls. Local transportation officials say that poses safety and other problems. There has been talk of rebuilding the highway into a freeway at about $80 million. This would be an extension to the already existing Interstate-compatible freeway along Corridor X (U.S. 78).

Drawing parallels between U.S. 78 and U.S. 72, Odor said, "Yes, south of Collierville is a rural area now. But what is it going to be in 20 years? Let's design for 20 years in the future and do it right to start with. ... That's what this is all about."

Dismissing concerns about widening U.S. 72 as a "totally separate issue," state transportation manager Ralph Comer and other Department of Transportation officials downplay the dispute over connecting the Nonconnah and Collierville-Arlington parkways. Using the state's proposed alignment, Comer said, an interchange could be added to allow for a future roadway linking Nonconnah and Collierville-Arlington to the proposed Miss. 304 extension.

But Comer noted that Mississippi officials have not decided where their highway extension - which would provide an artery from eastern Shelby County through DeSoto County to near the Tunica casinos - will spill into Tennessee.

"Since they don't have a definite state line crossing at this point, we don't feel like we need to compromise our plans (for Collierville-Arlington)," Comer said. ". . . This is not a route that we have just recently started working on. It's been under development for some time."

Construction on the last leg of the $220 million Nonconnah Parkway is scheduled for completion in 2000. Grandinetti said she doesn't think a timetable has been set for construction to begin on Collierville-Arlington Parkway and its connection to Nonconnah.

For more information, check out Mississippi DOT Interstate 69 Home Page, Chris Lawrence's Tennessee 385, and Chris Lawrence's Mississippi 302 web pages.

Tennessee

At Memphis, Interstate 69 will go through the city via Interstate 55/Interstate 240/Interstate 40/Tennessee State Route 300. According to Adam Froehlig, construction improvements performed along Interstate 55 (future Interstate 69) in south Memphis during June 2000 includes bridge work at I-240. Work continues along Interstate 55 from Interstate 240 south to the Mississippi State Line.

The "city" option would have Interstate 69 follow Interstate 55 from Mississippi north into Memphis, then follow Interstate 240 from Interstate 55 to Interstate 40, have a short duplex with Interstate 40, then continue out on the Tennessee State Route 300 stub, which would be extended to continue north to where Tennessee State Route 385 currently ends at U.S. 51. Interstate 69 will then continue north either along or parallel to U.S. 51 up to the Kentucky line, serving towns such as Covington, Dyersburg, and Union City.

Kentucky

Interstate 69 will continue along U.S. 51 north to the Julian M. Carroll Purchase Parkway connection at Fulton, Kentucky. Interstate 69 will follow the Purchase Parkway until its end at Interstate 24. Between 1991 and 1999, it appeared as if Interstate 69 would be constructed on a new alignment from the parkway terminus northeast to Henderson, Kentucky. However, in May 1999, the state of Kentucky announced that Interstate 69 would follow the existing Western Kentucky and Pennyrile Parkways. It will then cross the Ohio River to enter Evansville, Indiana. Apparently the U.S. 41 bridges that connect Henderson and Evansville are not adequate, as the article specifically mentioned that a new Ohio River crossing will be built for Interstate 69.

The Fiscal Year 2002 Transportation Appropriation Bill specifically designated the Purchase Parkway in Kentucky as Interstate 69, thus ending any confusion about the routing Interstate 69 would take in the Bluegrass State.

It is possible that the Audubon Parkway, the Western Kentucky Parkway east of the Pennyrile Parkway, and the Pennyrile Parkway south of the Western Kentucky Parkway could become 3di spurs off of Interstate 69 (or Interstate 24, Interstate 65, or possibly Interstate 66), as they will provide direct access to Interstate 69 in Kentucky. The 1999 Kentucky six-year schedule plans extend the Pennyrile Parkway to Interstate 24 as a limited access highway, regardless of the plans for Interstate 69.

According to Scott Dennis, The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's six-year plan (1999) includes the following items for Interstate 69:

  • In Fiscal Year 2001, $400,000 for a scoping study to "relocate U.S. 641 from Interstate 24 to Marion as a potential Interstate 69 connector."
  • In Fiscal Year 2002, $600,000 for a scoping study to "locate alignment for Interstate 69 around Henderson from Pennyrile Parkway to Ohio River crossing."

Here are some excerpts from the Interstate 69 press release from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet on May 29, 1999: "State to study north-south Interstate. Governor Paul Patton announced yesterday that Kentucky will join seven other states in studying a proposed north-south Interstate highway corridor that would run through the far western part of the state. Kentucky will receive part of $10 million in federal funds to study the extension of Interstate 69, which runs from Port Huron, Mich., to Indianapolis. Interstate 69 would be extended to the Texas-Mexico border and be used to facilitate economic traffic created by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Interstate 69 would use the existing Pennyrile and Purchase Parkways. ... Interstate 69 money headed for Kentucky. Kentucky is among eight states scheduled to receive $10 million in federal funds to help develop Interstate 69. The highway, which currently runs from Port Huron, Mich., to Indianapolis, is proposed to be extended to the Texas-Mexico border. It would go through Indiana, western Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The goal is to develop the road into a major north-south corridor on which goods produced through the North American Free Trade Agreement would be transported. The route through western Kentucky would use the Pennyrile and Western Kentucky Parkways, then Interstate 24 and the Purchase Parkway to the Tennessee border. Governor Patton said Interstate 69 would have a major impact on economic development along the route. "We are hoping to obtain funds to study the Henderson/Evansville connection because this is the vital tie of this route in Kentucky, he said."

For more information and maps, go to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Interstate 69 Web Page.

On June 2, 1999, H.B. Elkins posted the following on misc.transport.road regarding the relevance of the national Interstate 69 on an individual state like Kentucky:

Interstate 69 is a national highway, not just an Indiana or Kentucky project, although Indiana probably stands to benefit more via the Evansville-Indianapolis connection than Kentucky would from a Paducah-Henderson connection.

I don't think there's any great demand in Kentucky for Interstate 66 or Interstate 69. The existing network of highways across southern Kentucky (U.S. 68, Kentucky State Route 80, the Cumberland Parkway, the Daniel Boone Parkway, U.S. 23-460 and U.S. 119) is adequate to move existing traffic through that area -- or it will be when U.S. 119 between Pikeville and Williamson is finally completed a few years from now. Although US 60 could stand some improvements between Henderson and Paducah -- and I do think that some projects are listed in the state's six-year construction plan and some work may have been done since I was last in that area in 1994 -- the existing highways are adequate for the amount of traffic they currently carry.

However, folks in Kentucky realize the national importance of Interstate 66 and Interstate 69, and they realize the economic development impact that these two roads will have on the state. That's why they have been involved in planning for these highways. Interstate 66 and Interstate 69 will have minimal transportation impact in Kentucky, but because they've been deemed vital national links, Kentucky wants to work to build these roads.

For more information, see Jeffrey Coleman Carlyle's Kentucky Roads.

Southern Indiana

Once in southwestern Indiana, Interstate 69 would follow the Interstate 164 spur route out of Evansville to mainline Interstate 64. The cities served by Interstate 69 will be Oakland City, Petersburg, Washington, Crane, and Bloomington. Paralleling existing routes, Interstate 69 will follow Indiana 57 from Interstate 64 north to Washington, then turn northeast via a new terrain route to meet Indiana 37 south of Bloomington. After passing through Bloomington, Interstate 69 will follow Indiana 37 north to the Interstate 465 beltway. This routing is known is "Route 3-C."

The routing of Interstate 69 through southwestern Indiana was the subject of intense debate. Even though a "final" choice was made in early January 2003, it is likely that the preferred routing will see lawsuits and court challenges that may delay or cancel construction of this route. The chosen route drew the ire of environmentalists who saw such much of the new terrain routing to be detrimental to the forests and farmlands of southwestern Indiana. Prior to the final route selection in January 2003, Interstate 69 was proposed to follow one of the following five possible routes:

  • Interstate 70 to U.S. 41 from Indianapolis to Evansville via Terre Haute
  • Interstate 70 or Indiana 37 to Indiana 67 to U.S. 41 via Indianapolis, Martinsville, Vincennes, and Evansville
  • Interstate 70 or Indiana 37 to Indiana 67 to Indiana 57 via Indianapolis, Martinsville, Switz City, and Evansville
  • Interstate 70 or Indiana 37 to Indiana 67 to connect to Indiana 57 via a new alignment via Indianapolis, Martinsville, Bloomington, Washington, Evansville
  • Indiana 37 to U.S. 50 to Indiana 57 via Indianapolis, Bloomington, Bedford, Washington, and Evansville

If the chosen routing is not constructed due to opposition, it is possible that the route might be reverted to one of the other four options. Much of the information regarding the Interstate 69 extension in Indiana was researched from The Indianapolis Star.

History of the Indiana Interstate 69 Corridor Selection

To arrive at the final decision for the Interstate 69 corridor in southwestern Indiana, the Indiana DOT had been working out plans for Interstate 69 in Southeastern Indiana between 1995 and 2003. The draft environmental analysis (EIS), released in 1998, was roundly criticized when by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which called it "seriously deficient." The principal criticism of the draft EIS is that it failed to consider the alternate route of Interstate 70 west to Indianapolis from Terre Haute and U.S. 41 south to Evansville. In spite of this assertion, INDOT countered by releasing a report that estimated the cost of U.S. 41 at the same or more than a new terrain segment from Bloomington to Evansville.

Nevertheless, the environmental impact analysis of Interstate 69 was reinitiated in November 1998 to accommodate the concept of using U.S. 41 as a path for Interstate 69. That study was completed in December 2000. The Official Interstate 69 Study and the Indianapolis Star listed 14 possible routes for the Interstate 69 Freeway from Evansville to Indianapolis. By April 2001, 14 possible routes were under consideration with ongoing community meetings and discussions:

  • A: U.S. 41 to Interstate 70. (155-158 miles) This route would use existing or slightly relocated U.S. 41 north to Terre Haute. A new route, dubbed Indiana State Route 641, is already planned to provide relief to U.S. 41; Interstate 69 would likely follow this bypass, then turn east along Interstate 70 toward Indianapolis. Interstates 69 and 70 would multiplex for this distance.
  • B: U.S. 41, Indiana 65, Indiana 57, and Indiana 37/39. (146-156 miles) This route would follow U.S. 41 north to Princeton, turn northeast along Indiana 65 to meet Indiana 57 near Petersburg, then head north along Indiana 57. At U.S. 231, the freeway would turn east following Indiana 54/445/45 toward Bloomington. At Bloomington, Interstate 69 would turn north along Indiana 37, either taking Indiana 37 or Indiana 39 to meet Interstate 70 in Indianapolis.
  • C: U.S. 41, Indiana 67, U.S. 231, Interstate 70. (146-149 miles) This route would follow U.S. 41 from Evansville north to Vincennes, then turn northeast along Indiana 67. North of Carp, the Interstate would turn north along U.S. 231 to meet Interstate 70. Interstates 69 and 70 would combine for the distance into Indianapolis.
  • D: U.S. 41, Indiana 54, Indiana 45, Indiana 37. (164-168 miles) In this scenario, Interstate 69 would follow U.S. 41 north to near Sullivan, then turn due east along Indiana 54, Indiana 445, and Indiana 45 to Bloomington. At Bloomington, the freeway would turn northeast along Indiana 37 all the way to Indianapolis.
  • E: U.S. 41, Indiana 54, Indiana 67, Interstate 70. (150-153 miles) Like Scenario D, Interstate 69 would follow U.S. 41 north to near Sullivan, then turn due east along Indiana 54. Rather than go to Bloomington, Interstate 69 would turn north at Switz City along Indiana 67, then turn due north at Paragon along a new alignment to Interstate 70.
  • F: Indiana 57 and New Alignment Between Indiana 67 and 37. (141-142 miles) Interstate 69 would avoid U.S. 41 in this scenario and follow Indiana 57 via Washington northeast to Newberry. At Newberry, the Interstate would follow a new alignment located midway between Indiana 67 and Indiana 37, perhaps using a portion of Indiana 43, and it would pass through Ellettsville. The freeway would head due north from Ellettsville, and it would merge with Interstate 70 near milepost 55 for the final distance into Indianapolis.
  • G: New Alignment Parallel to Scenario F. (142-143 miles) Under this scenario, Interstate 69 would closely mirror the routing described under Scenario F, but it would be built entirely on new alignment and would not overlay existing routes.
  • H: Indiana 57, Indiana 58, Indiana 45, Indiana 37/39. (139-146 miles) This routing would allow for Bloomington to be on the new freeway route while avoiding U.S. 41. The route would follow Indiana 57 north to a point south of Newberry, then cut northeast, perhaps via Indiana 58 and Indiana 45, to Bloomington. From Bloomington, Interstate 69 would follow either Indiana 37 or 39, similar to Scenario B.
  • I: Indiana 57, Indiana 67, U.S. 231, Interstate 70. (143 miles) This scenario would see Interstate 69 follow Indiana 57 northeast from Evansville to U.S. 231/Indiana 67. The freeway would follow U.S. 231 to Interstate 70, then duplex with Interstate 70 east into Indianapolis.
  • J: Indiana 57 and Indiana 67 via Paragon. (142 miles) In this scenario, Interstate 69 would follow Indiana 57 to near Switz City, then head northeast along Indiana 67. At Paragon, the freeway would turn north along a new alignment to meet Interstate 70, then head east into Indianapolis.
  • K: Indiana 57, New Alignment, and Interstate 65. (152 miles) Another possible alignment would again use Indiana 57 to Newberry, but turn east toward Franklin, passing through Bloomington. This section would be constructed along a new alignment. At Franklin, the Interstate would turn north along Interstate 65 into Indianapolis.
  • L: Indiana 57, U.S. 50, Indiana 37. (146-152 miles) Under this alignment, Interstate 69 would follow Indiana 57 north to Washington, then turn east along U.S. 50-150 to Loogootee. The Interstate would then follow U.S. 50 northeast to Bedford, then turn due north on Indiana 37 through Bloomington to Indianapolis.
  • M: Interstate 64, U.S. 231, Interstate 70. (161 miles) Interstate 69 would follow a converted U.S. 231 freeway from Dale north to Cloverdale via Huntingburg, Jasper, and Spencer, but it would avoid Bloomington.
  • N: Interstate 64, U.S. 231, U.S. 50, Indiana 37. (159-161 miles) Scenario N would combine Scenarios L and M so that the Interstate would follow Interstate 64 east to Dale, U.S. 231 north to Loogootee, U.S. 50 northeast to Indiana 37 at Bedford, and Indiana 37 north to Indianapolis via Bloomington.
  • No Build. Interstate 69 may not be built at all in southwestern Indiana.

In November 2001, Indiana DOT cut back the number of options to just five (per the Indianapolis Star):

  • Interstate 70 to U.S. 41 from Indianapolis to Evansville via Terre Haute
  • Interstate 70 or Indiana 37 to Indiana 67 to U.S. 41 via Indianapolis, Martinsville, Vincennes, and Evansville
  • Interstate 70 or Indiana 37 to Indiana 67 to Indiana 57 via Indianapolis, Martinsville, Switz City, and Evansville
  • Interstate 70 or Indiana 37 to Indiana 67 to connect to Indiana 57 via a new alignment via Indianapolis, Martinsville, Bloomington, Washington, Evansville
  • Indiana 37 to U.S. 50 to Indiana 57 via Indianapolis, Bloomignton, Bedford, Washington, and Evansville

These corridors underwent intense public scrutiny in 2002, with a decision delayed into the new year. On Thursday, January 9, 2003, Governor Frank O'Bannon announced that Route 3-C was selected for the Interstate 69 corridor in southwestern Indiana, thus eliminating the Terre Haute (Interstate 70/U.S. 41) option, which was championed by many environmentalists. Now that the final route has been selected, opponents have pledged to continue their battle against the new-terrain Interstate 69 in the Hoosier State.

For more on Interstate 69, see Interstate Highway 69 (Chris Lawrence).

Timeline of Interstate 69 in Indiana

The Indianapolis Star article "I-69 report puts focus on isolation of communities: Emphasis on economy in southwestern Indiana hints at strong possibility of using new-terrain plan," dated April 18, 2001 by Dan McFeely presented a chronology of history for Interstate 69. Here is the same chronology in abridged format:

  • 1947. Construction of Interstate 69 first considered by Indiana state officials.
  • 1980. A western Indiana north-south toll road linking Evansville to Interstate 70 and Lafayette was considered but not approved because it was not considered cost-effective. The feasibility study considered one route from Lafayette to Evansville and the other from Lafayette to Rockport. At that time, the State of Kentucky pledged $42 million to construct a free bridge over the Ohio Road to tie the road to the Green River (Natcher) Parkway. The study was presented to the Indiana State Legislature in January 1981 but was turned down. The Rockport-Indianapolis-Lafayette route would have cost $741 million in 1980 dollars, which was (and is!) quite a bit of money. (Additional information from the Journal-Democrat dated June 19, 1980, courtesy of Jacob Newkirk.)
  • 1990. A study looks at linking Evansville to Bloomington, then continuing along Indiana 37 to Indianapolis. The plan eventually died, in part because the highway went nowhere south of Evansville.
  • 1993. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) becomes a reality, renewing the push for Interstate 69 to connect Mexico to Canada, and leading to revived discussions in Indiana.
  • 1996. An Evansville-to-Bloomington link gets serious study, but critics attack on two fronts: a desire to link to Indianapolis and consideration of a path through Terre Haute on U.S. 41.
  • 1998. The state broadens its study to include a link from Evansville to Indianapolis and opens up consideration of other routes, including through Terre Haute.
  • 1999. Current study begins.
  • December 2000 The state announces 14 possible paths to be considered.
  • April 2001. Purpose and Need Statement is completed.
  • End of Summer 2001. Route alternatives will be narrowed to between three and five.
  • January 2003. Final corridor decision is made, even though it is several months late.
  • 2005. Construction would begin.
  • 2007. The first segment of new highway would open.

Controversy Related to Interstate 69 in Southeastern Indiana

Opposition remains fierce against the southwestern Indiana stretch of Interstate 69 for several reasons: it might run through a state forest and close to the Hoosier National Forest, it would disrupt the rural atmosphere of southeastern Indiana (and a little bit of NIMBY-ism, that is, Not In My BackYard), it may too costly for the perceived benefit, and some alternate routes exist. Aaron Renn tells me that there is a great deal of opposition to this road in Indiana. Many environmental groups, farmers, and advocates for cities along U.S. 41 (which they are promulgating as an alternate route) are against it. Two Anti-Interstate 69 web sites have sprung up: one by CARR and the other by ELPC. The CARR page was built by one of the main groups fighting the Interstate 69 project. Finally, the Friends of the Earth oppose this project. It is interesting to note that most of the Interstate 69 opposition is related to the southwestern Indiana segment of the corridor. Despite all of the other segments included in High Priority Corridors 18 and 20, the segment that started the whole Interstate 69 idea is the most controversial.

Some say that Interstate 69 should be multiplexed with Interstate 70 from Indianapolis to Terre Haute. This could be accomplished by constructing a bypass near Terre Haute to get around a heavily trafficked strip mall area and by upgrading U.S. 41 to Interstate standards. Dateline NBC did a piece on this project in April 1998. They say that if the corridor follows US-41 (which is almost to Interstate standards), the same job could be performed for $700 million rather than the $1.5 billion currently proposed. This alternate is 12 miles longer than the proposed 'diagonal' cut from Indianapolis to Evansville.

Several major newspapers have spoken out on the "green grass" routing of Interstate 69 now proposed between Indianapolis and Evansville, including the Louisville Courier-Journal, South Bend Tribune, Indianapolis Star and News, Gary Post Tribune, Terre Haute Tribune-Star and Vincennes Sun-Commercial, along with the Indiana Prairie Farmer and The Farmers Exchange. Many of them have joined the ranks of opponents of the proposed new highway and supporters of the U.S. 41 and Interstate 70 alternative.

On Saturday, August 29, 1998, the Courier-Journal wrote that "a recitation of the institutions and people who oppose the Interstate 69 extension would be longer than a Bobby Knight tirade against an incompetent referee." The paper stated that "Hoosiers are supposed to be pretty careful about money," but Interstate 69 would "waste" hundreds of millions of dollars. The editorial concluded by stating: "One wonders whether Governor O'Bannon, who is a keen fellow, has calculated the impact of a wasteful, avoidable project like this on his reputation for common sense and political prudence."

Just two weeks earlier, on August 16, 1998, the South Bend Tribune weighed in with an editorial headlined, "Opponents of Interstate 69 on the Right Road." The Tribune stated that the factors of "fewer dollars, preservation of farmland and minimal disruption by using existing roads argue in favor of the U.S. 41/Interstate 70 route." The paper pointed out, "Any savings realized in a less expensive Interstate 69 is money that potentially could be applied to improving U.S. 31 [from South Bend] to Indianapolis."

In response to whether Indiana truly needs a newly constructed link between Indianapolis-Evansville, Aaron Renn listed several reasons why a direct link between these two cities is not necessary. The following is an excerpt from his post to misc.transport.road:

  1. Evansville claims to be a "major city" in Indiana. However, the entire four county Evansville area (including Vanderburgh, Posey, Warrick, and Gibson, but excluding Henderson County, KY) has only 276,000 people. This represents only 4.7% of the total statewide population. This is only about half the size of the Fort Wayne area, and is also much smaller than the 474,000 population South Bend area.
  2. Evansville claims to be suffering from high growth and spiraling traffic congestion. However, the same Evansville area has only grown by 3.13% since 1990. This is actually lower than the statewide average of 5.77% The supposed suburban boom area of Warrick County does not even make the list of top ten fastest growing counties in Indiana. Evansville's problem is out of control sprawl, not out of control growth.
  3. Despite slower population growth than the statewide average, the Evansville area is doing extremely well economically. In December 1998, its unemployment rate was a mere 3.2%. This is slightly higher than the statewide 2.9% value, but is still an extremely low value representing basically fully employment. The region will continue to benefit from many new major economic investments such as the new Toyota plant and the AK Steel plant. These are all without Interstate 69.
  4. Evansville claims to be neglected by INDOT. However, without Interstate 69, the same Evansville area is still slated for many large and expensive transportation projects. This includes $49 million for widening SR 62, $48 million for construction on SR 69, and $40 million for widening on SR 66. In the not too distant past INDOT constructed the new Interstate 164 spur into the city and built the Lloyd Expressway. There are $293 per capita in programmed capacity expansion spending (without Interstate 69) in the Evansville area under the [Indiana state] Crossroads 2000 plan compared to a statewide average of only $121 per capita. In other words, Evansville is already slated to receive over twice the statewide average in capacity expansion spending - WITHOUT Interstate 69.
  5. Other areas of Southern Indiana are also getting large expansion projects. These include $265 million to widen Interstate 65 in Clark County, about $100 million to widen U.S. 231 between Interstate 64 and the Ohio River, $45 million for a new Terre Haute bypass, $47 million for upgrades to SR 46 in Bloomington, $33 million for U.S. 50 in Knox County, and tens of millions more in proposed upgrades to the Indiana State Route 37/State Route 145 corridor. Many of these projects may be questionable in their own right, but they certainly represent a major commitment to Southern Indiana on the part of INDOT.

However, not everyone shares Mr. Renn's opinion. Another post to misc.transport.road on June 5, 1999, defended the planned INDOT routing of Interstate 69 between Evansville and Indianapolis. Dyche Anderson writes, "The issue is traffic safety. Indiana 45, Indiana 58, and U.S. 231 have a lots trucks traffic with DOT 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4 placards. Those roads are not very good. They are twisty, hilly, and narrow two-lane roads. Everyone who works at Crane [Naval Base] knows someone who was injured in an auto accident to or from work. Besides, Indiana 45 from Bloomington to Owensburg (near one of the entrances to NSWC/Crane) has more people commuting in the opposing direction, into Bloomington instead of out of it."

Editors' Note: Although we have tried to find a balance of opinions on all high priority corridors, we have found some of the strongest pro/con opinions on Interstate 69 in southwestern Indiana. From our research, there is much more information that opposes routing Interstate 69 directly between Evansville and Indianapolis. It seems many are interested in seeing Interstate 69 along U.S. 41 and Interstate 70. Stay tuned ... the final decision on this corridor should be interesting.

Interstate 69 in Indianapolis?

Aaron Renn tells me that the idea of extending Interstate 69 through downtown Indianapolis rather than around Interstate 465 is dead on arrival. The original plan was to extend Interstate 69 from its current terminus to downtown as a six-lane freeway known as Interstate 165, or the Fall Creek Expressway. This route was eliminated due to local opposition and the city and state received interstate substitution funds instead. (The last of the money was just spent in 1996 on a rehabilitation of Madison Avenue).

The proposed designation of this northeast freeway was, at the time the project was killed, Interstate 165. It is quite possible that the original proposal was for an Interstate 69 through route. Michael King tells me that 1960s-era plans called for the Interstate 69 designation for the Fall Creek Expressway. It would follow the Interstate 165 routing from the current southern terminus of Interstate 69 and run south to meet Interstate 65 and Interstate 70. Interstate 69 was then planned to run west along northbound Interstate 65 to the present West Street exit. At that point, a new freeway was planned to run south from there along or parallelling West Street to meet Interstate 70 at or near the White River bridge. This freeway following the current West St. alignment would link Interstate 65 and Interstate 70 on the west side of downtown, forming a downtown loop similar to what exists in Columbus, Ohio. Aaron Renn indicates that some Interstate highway substitution funds from the canceled Interstate 165 project were later used to improve West Street, a six-lane divided surface street.

Interstate 69 apparently was then planned to continue south to Interstate 465 and continue at least as far south as Bloomington, according to Michael King's review of the 1960s-era planning maps. This indicates that the Interstate 69 extension has been planned for a very long time by Indiana officials. As noted at the top of the page, the concept of Interstate 69 as a "NAFTA Highway" was conceived by Indiana officials who really wanted the Interstate 69 southwestern extension. To get federal funding, they planned a multi-state routing that would cut through Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas on its way to Mexico. By marketing the whole "NAFTA Corridor" concept, officials and businessmen in Indiana were able to get federal money behind the project. Of course, money was also secured for the Indiana section.

Local transportation officials now favor a northeast to downtown light rail line following the old Nickel Plate (Norfolk and Western) line from Noblesville to downtown. This parallels Interstate 69 and the once-proposed Interstate 165 route. This rail corridor is already under local ownership and a Major Investment/Environmental study is imminent.

Interstate 94: Chicago to Port Huron

The 1998 NHS Act adds Interstate 94 to Corridor 18. This would include improvements to that highway from Chicago to Detroit, then northeast to Port Huron and Sarnia, Ontario. Interstate 94 is over-capacity in many stretches, especially the Bishop Ford, Kingery, and Borman Expressways in Northern Illinois and Indiana.

In Michigan, Interstate 94 is programmed for several improvements, including the following:

The Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor

The Ambassador Bridge, which connects Michigan to Ontario near Detroit, was added to Corridor 18 as a result of the 1998 TEA-21 legislation. The main issue is to build a direct connection from Interstate 75 to the Ambassador Bridge, and as such a connection is mandated in the 1998 NHS Act legislation. In addition, the following special section was added to the 1998 NHS Act:

SEC. 1129. AMBASSADOR BRIDGE ACCESS, DETROIT, MICHIGAN.

    (a) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding section 129 of title 23, United States Code, or any other provision of law, improvements to access roads and construction of access roads, approaches, and related facilities (such as signs, lights, and signals) necessary to connect the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, Michigan, to the Interstate System shall be eligible for funds apportioned under paragraphs (1)(C) and (3) of section 104(b) of that title.

    (b) USE OF FUNDS- Funds described in subsection (a) shall not be used for any improvement to, or construction of, the bridge itself.

This would mostly likely be an extension of Interstate 96 from Interstate 75 into Canada, depending upon how the road is constructed and where its endpoint would be located.

Another proposal circulating is the construction of an entirely new bridge over the Detroit River, perhaps one originating at the Detroit Coke site and crossing into Windsor, just east of Zug Island. However, no construction plans for a new bridge exist at this time. For more, visit The Detroit Free-Press ("Two groups interested in new U.S.-Canada bridge: Rivals covet 80-acre Detroit Coke site" by John Gallagher, dated March 15, 2003).

History of the Interstate 69 Corridor

The Interstate 69 corridor was the hatchling of a group of Indiana businesspeople in the 1980s who wanted to see the Interstate extended southwest from its current terminus in Indianapolis south to Evansville. This would provide a complete Interstate linkage throughout the state of Indiana, and they viewed an Interstate 69 extension as a perfect economic opportunity to develop rural sections of Indiana previously isolated.

However, this idea was very low on the list of funding priorities, so Indiana officials developed another idea: why not extend the Interstate 69 southwest from Evansville to Memphis? This could be accomplished by combining two separate high priority corridors: Corridor 18 and Corridor 20. With the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the businesspeople realized that Interstate 69 could be a real "NAFTA Corridor" by extending the route even further south and west to Texas via Mississippi (near the Tunica riverboat casinos on the Mississippi River), rural southern Arkansas, and Louisiana.

By creating this connection, Interstate 69 would run from Laredo, Texas, northeast through several metropolitan areas, including Houston, Shreveport, Memphis, Indianapolis, and the Detroit region. This would effectively connect the industrial eastern part of Canada (Ontario, Quebec) with the heartland of the U.S. and the border industries of northern Mexico, providing a direct linkage between the two countries.

Other highways already can lay claim to the title of "NAFTA Corridor." An association in Texas wants the Interstate 35 Corridor to be the NAFTA Superhighway, as Interstate 35 also links Canada and Mexico. Interstate 35 is considered to be a competitor to Interstate 69 since they both would serve Texas and begin in the same general area (Laredo-Brownsville area). However, Interstate 35 has a leg up on Interstate 69 that no one disputes: Interstate 35 is already built.

Returning to the development of Interstate 69: In 1991, when the ISTEA legislation was being developed, the business people from Indiana approached Capitol Hill with a radical idea: why not identify key "high priority" corridors? After showing the politicians the proposed routing of Interstate 69 and how it would foster trade and transportation across several states (rather than just Indiana), Congress agreed to add the Interstate 69 extension to a list of "high priority corridors."

Of course, the Interstate 69 route started a trend. Other corridors sponsored by various political action committees evolved into high priority corridors, including the Interstate 66 (TransAmerica) Corridor desired by Kansas and Kentucky officials and the Interstate 73/74 Corridor. ISTEA, and later NHS and BESTEA, had a list of high priority corridors throughout the country.

Page Updated May 29, 2004.